One might easily think of the mitzvah of mezuzah as a passive mitzvah. One simply affixes it to the doorposts of one’s house while reciting a blessing, and it is done. While affixing a mezuzah is a one time act, its position on the doorposts is meant to lead one to a continual awareness of the Divine presence. For this reason, there is a custom to either look at/touch/kiss the mezuzah as one passes by.

So which is it? Does one look at, touch or kiss the mezuzah? The answer is that it depends on one’s family or community’s custom. Many people cite the source for touching the mezuzah back to a story about Onkelos in Talmud Avodah Zarah (11a). When the emperor’s soldiers come to retrieve him (click here to find out why), he placed his hand on the mezuzah and asked if the soldiers know what it means. When they inquired, he used it as an opportunity to explain how God perpetually watches over the Jewish people. The guards were so impressed that they converted to Judaism.

The custom of kissing the mezuzah, which usually means touching the mezuzah and then kissing the fingers that touched it, is not mentioned until the era of Rabbi Isaac Luria (16th century, Arizal). It is a further means of demonstrating not only one’s awareness of God, but one’s love of the Divine as well.

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